Oakland Raiders

There’s no need to see the full schedule of the 2014 NFL season to know which teams will be pitted against each other. The strength of schedule for next season is already set based on the 2013 standings, which indicate that the Oakland Raiders, finishing last in the AFC West, have the most difficult schedule compared with the rest of the NFL, while the Indianapolis Colts have the easiest.

Does it mean anything? Probably not, not before the teams have made their free agency changes, trades, cuts and the draft picks. But it does serve as some indication, especially when knowing or predicting how good teams should be going into next season.

The Raiders finished last in the AFC West with a 4-12 record, which does give them the Browns, Texans and Bills as opponents based on their division positions. But they also have to play six times against AFC West teams, all of them making the playoffs last season, and they’re matched up with the NFC West, which means playing against the 49ers and Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, while the Arizona Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams are teams worth taking seriously.

T.Y. Hilton

The Colts? They finished first in the AFC South, which was terrible last season. The Houston Texans won’t be 2-14 again, but their record helps the Colts’ numbers, going along with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans. The Colts will have to play the Broncos, Patriots and Bengals, but they played them all this season as well. In the NFC they’re playing against the East, which was the worst division in football last year. How much will the Giants, Redskins, Eagles and Cowboys be able to change over the next few months? Hard to say.

The Super Bowl champions Seattle Seahawks are sixth in this ranking, with NFC West and AFC West teams filling the top 8 spots. In short, it might be a bit too much to expect three teams from the AFC West or the NFC West to make the playoffs, even though they sent a combined five teams to the postseason a couple of months ago, and the Arizona Cardinals weren’t that far from getting in as well.

While this is somewhat helpful in terms of predicting what’s going to happen, it comes down to this: The SOS is based on last year’s performances, and there are plenty of changes that will be made in the coming months. The Texans won’t be so bad, while there will be playoff-headed teams that collapse along the way. It’s good to generate discussion about the coming season, but it’s not as an accurate tool of predictions actual difficulty than it might seem.

1Oakland Raiders.578
2Denver Broncos.570
3St. Louis Rams.564
4San Diego Chargers.563
5San Francisco 49ers.563
6Seattle Seahawks.561
7Kansas City Chiefs.559
8Arizona Cardinals.547
9New York Jets.520
10New England Patriots.516
11Atlanta Falcons.512
12Miami Dolphins.508
13Green Bay Packers.504
14Buffalo Bills.500
15Chicago Bears.496
16Detroit Lions.492
17Washington Redskins.490
18Dallas Cowboys.488
19Tampa Bay Buccaneers.484
20Philadelphia Eagles.479
21Minnesota Vikings.477
22Carolina Panthers.473
23Cincinnati Bengals.469
24New Orleans Saints.469
25Pittsburgh Steelers.469
26Cleveland Browns.465
27New York Giants.465
28Baltimore Ravens.461
29Jacksonville Jaguars.453
30Houston Texans.441
31Tennessee Titans.438
32Indianapolis Colts.430
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